Parents are putting their children at risk by buying second hand car seats, it has been claimed.
Ill-fitting and unsuitable used seats are being snapped up by austere mums and dads from car boot sales and online auction sites in an effort to save cash. But their actions could be lethal, say experts.
Figures from high street accessory giant Halfords show that purchases of pre-owned child car seats are rising as families struggle to make ends meet.
The firm says seven per cent of its customers admit they have previously bought seats second hand - a rise of two per cent compared to a year ago.
"A lot of wear-and-tear on a pre-owned child car seat may not be visible to the untrained eye and buckles and straps that look fine at first glance may actually be so damaged that they could fail during an accident," warned Halfords expert Samantha Preece.
What makes the situation even more dangerous is a worrying 51 per cent of parents do not know how to check if their child seat is correctly fitted.
Preece added: "It is a big worry that some people may buy a second-hand car seat that doesn't even come with instructions."
It probably comes as no surprise that a retailer that sells child seats is advising you to buy new, but the firm's advice has been echoed by safety groups too.
"The law requires drivers who carry children to ensure that a child seat is correctly fitted," explained Adrian Walsh, director at charity Roadsafe. "If they are in any doubt, parents should seek professional advice."
While Robert Anslow, managing director of the Baby Products Association, went a step further saying: "Generally a car seat will be used numerous times each day for many years and the BPA can't stress enough the importance of buying new from a retailer who can provide expert product advice and the correct fitting instructions, which in the event of an accident, could save their child's life."
Every year, 30 children under 11 years old are killed and 400 seriously injured while traveling in cars. A correctly fitted car seat can help prevent some of these injuries.
Any child, up to 135cm tall, should travel in an appropriate child seat, even on short journeys. Drivers face a fixed £30 penalty or fine of up to £500 if they fail to comply with the regulations.
"Correctly fitted, a new car seat is an investment worth making, especially as some will last for around 12 years," added Preece.